August 4, 2012
Four years ago, Eric Shanteau and I talked about titles.
Not swimming events that he had won, but labels that he would carry with him in life. He knew he would always be a "cancer survivor," but we also discussed how from that point he would be called, "Olympian Eric Shanteau."
Later today, he could extend that label just a bit. If the U.S. 400 medley relay wins gold (as expected), Shanteau will win his first-ever Olympic medal. The Parkview grad isn't expected to swim in the finals, but he swam the breaststroke leg in preliminaries, which means he gets whatever medal the relay earns in the finals. Yep, "Olympic gold medal winner Eric Shanteau" has a pretty nice ring to it.
It couldn't happen to a nicer guy.
I like Eric for a number of reasons — among them that he hasn't forgotten the Gwinnett and SwimAtlanta roots that got him to this point and that he always returns my calls, texts or emails in a timely manner — but one of the biggest is how he's embraced the "cancer survivor" title.
It's cool to say you're an Olympian, even cooler to say you're an Olympic gold medalist. But the "cancer survivor" title, the one he didn't ask for, means so much to him. It would be easy to put that stage of life in the past, but Eric uses his Olympic fame to raise money and awareness for cancer research constantly. He famously delayed cancer treatment to swim in the 2008 Olympics, which thrust him into a role where he can be an advocate for cancer research.
He hosts an annual cancer fundraiser at Lake Lanier, Eric Shanteau's Swim For Your Life. Young swimmers should attend this year's event on Sept. 22 to meet a great guy, and learn a few tips about swimming. A pack of swimmers from Eric's SwimAtlanta club plan to attend this year. Check out more help with a donation if you can at http://www.shanteauopenwater.com.
Eric hasn't decided if he will continue swimming competitively after this summer's Olympics, but if he leaves the sport he will at least have some pretty sweet Olympic titles to add to his name. And it's safe to say he will rely on his other title, "cancer survivor," to do great things in the future.